It started sometime around Christmas…or just after…there was no specific date that it began, with these things there never are – I guess it was hit and miss for awhile, but then it very much became ‘the normal’. My blossom, my Eleanor Honey-Joy, queen of the sleep-in, the baby who I always just put down and..she slept! Somewhere in the past four months she has vanished. Sleeping Beauty doesn’t live here anymore.
Even relatively recently, Eleanor would be tucked into bed by me (or Matt) and we were told in no uncertain terms to: “Get OUT! Get out of my room, get off my bed, I am going to SLEEP!” She has always been anti-cuddling, she likes her own personal space, and I have always tried to respect that (although lamenting sometimes that I wouldn’t mind a little cuddly kid sometimes! Thankfully Harriet gives beautiful snuggles). But Eleanor has always slept very independently, even as a little baby, I never rocked or fed her to sleep – I would wrap her up and put her in her bassinet and off to sleep she would drift. The same as a bigger baby and then toddler in her cot (much like Harriet now) – into her sleeping bag, into bed, good night, and see her in eight hours without a peep in between.
Then…it all changed. She simply lost the ability to go to sleep by herself. I started lying with her in bed – I can not emphasise how abnormal this was in my parenting!!! I had never done that before, not because I am anti co-sleeping or any other parent doing that, you do what you gotta go – no judgement here! It’s just that I had never had to do that before. We had entered foreign territory.
So to begin with I thought, well this is a nice change, my contact-phobic ‘baby’ maybe actually does need me. Lovely! This phase shall pass, as everything else. And then it didn’t. And it kept going. And I kept lying with her every night. Because she would scream and scream and scream blue bloody murder unless I did. Awful, awful, awful. So of course, I would lie with her. But now it is a total habit, rather than a ‘phase’. It’s almost robotic, on both of our behalves: toilet, teeth, pyjamas, story, lie with me Mummy. Do not even suggest that somebody else lie with her (i.e. Daddy) That is the other thing – she has become next level obsessed with me. Daddy can not brush her teeth, take her to the toilet, make her food, get her dressed without MUCH SCREAMING!!! “Mummy do it! Mummy do it! MUMMY DO IT!” As you can imagine, I can’t possibly do everything for her…because: Harriet. I feel this is all very much connected though – Eleanor is clearly going through some big developmental ‘leaps’.
I think it began with her fear of the dark – a very normal, age appropriate development of her rapidly growing brain. Fair enough. She was learning to have a fear of ‘the other’. The fear of the dark though developed into a fear of ‘scary’ creatures. Foxes and bats apparently would come into her room at night, in her window. Crickey! All pretty grim stuff. And although she has never really articulated it as such, this recent development alongside her down right refusal to go to sleep by herself, I’ve put two and two together. Must be some big brain explosions going on in that not-so-little noggin of hers.
In the earlier weeks (months?!) of this new bedtime behaviour it could be a bit irregular…some nights she would be like ‘the old Eleanor’ and just trot off to bed. Making me all the more confused! Once I wasn’t home for bedtime (what an exciting social life I lead…) Matt simply put her to bed as we used to and it wasn’t an issue. That was earlier in the piece though, maybe back in January or February when it wasn’t an ingrained habit. Once she was at Matt’s parents for the night though and Matt’s mum had to sit in the room with her. I have tried different things – we got her a new nightlight, a rewards chart, diffusing lavender, staying with her until she’s sleepy but not asleep (cue the screaming) and not letting her watch television later in the day/towards bedtime to trigger any fears… Nothing has made any difference.
But how to break the habit? And I can hear all of the parent police now: “Just lie with her, she won’t be little forever, she needs you.” Yes yes yes, I understand that. And whilst I don’t overly mind (although tedious and time consuming, when I would usually be cooking dinner or working, I am instead lying in the dark) So, no – I don’t mind…I get it. I am a parent of a young child, this is the territory (thanks for the advice anyway) – but I would very much like my little girl to be comfortable and not afraid and feel secure enough within herself to master the art of going to sleep herself. Because she has had the ability to before, right?! Where did it go?!
I have held back for months discussing this on my blog or social media…because I thought: it’s a phase, it will pass, I probably won’t even remember this in a few months! But 4-5 months in and here we are… Now it has grown some wings into night wakings – Eleanor has very rarely woken in the night since she was about six months old. This was new. And now that she’s bigger, she can reach her door handle (dang it!) and out she trots to arrive at my bedside at 2am, 3am…and because she has completely lost the ability to go to sleep without me, off I trot to her bed, then my bed, musical beds has never been part of our parenting picture. I know it is for lots of families, but it just never has been for us – I think Eleanor has slept in our bed maybe two or three times when she was sick before these recent developments. So, now we are those parents.
In short… I’m not asking for advice, although feel free to give it, because honestly? I’m all out of ideas. I’m at a dead end here. Mainly, I am just wanting to have my sleeping beauty back, because the little girl who has replaced her isn’t familiar to me. She’s not the only one fumbling in the dark on this one…